This is the package that carried our hearts through Paris, Dubai, and on to Ethiopia :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Extracting the Precious from the Worthless

Over the Christmas holiday I read a book by Beth Guckenberger called “Relentless Hope”. This book caught my eye in a Barnes N Noble because of the sweet little African boy on the cover (I’m quite partial to sweet little African boys!). The book kept my attention because of the theme - “Extracting the Precious from the Worthless”. It talks about how whatever you are going through in your life right now is just a chapter in your story. You are not defined by the things that you have been through or the choices that you have made. We all have really hard things that we go through, and I know that I personally made some bad bad choices in my younger years (some of those bad choices stemming from hard times). If we can take these circumstances or trials and extract the precious from the worthless- His precious promises and precious intimacy with Him, and walk away with precious lessons learned, then it’s all worth it. Then can we learn to focus on extracting the precious from each day, and let go of the, um, not-so-precious.

Those of you who follow my blog know that I am pretty open about the things that are happening in our family. There is no shame in sharing your heart and your circumstances. God did not intend for us to spend life alone. I think so many women in Christian circles don’t share their raw emotions for fear of being talked about later, shared as a “prayer request”, or fear of opening up and being vulnerable just to be let down. We should all strive to be genuine – ask how someone is really doing, and then really listen and be there for them when they bare their soul. We should say “I am praying for you”, but then really do pray for them. We should try not to give pat answers, or try to “solve” anything – just listen and be there for each other…get “in the trenches” with them. Anyways, rabbit trail! Here goes. To honestly sum up our time since being home with our boys: beautiful, adventurous, heartbreaking, exciting ,exhausting, laughter-filled, eye-opening, frustrating, rewarding, and special. We have experienced the extreme opposite ends of the spectrum! We knew things would be hard when we pursued the adoption of our boys. We had many people say that we were crazy, and I’m sure even more were thinking it and didn’t verbalize. I think our social worker may have even tried to discourage us from changing from baby adoption to adopting two older children. Bottom line, they are without a doubt our boys...our sons. We loved them from the second we saw that first picture, and there was no way we were gonna say “No!” to God for fear of doing something radical, or fear of inadequacy, or being too young/inexperienced. When God asks you to do something, whether you feel it or not, He equips you and He sustains you. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. We have definitely felt very inadequate most days over the last three months, but His mercies are new every morning, He pours out His wisdom in abundance (at our pleading!), and He gives “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”. It has been HARD, but we are learning so much. Every day.

One of the things that we have gone through with the boys is hearing the things that they say to us when they are angry. Sometimes it’s “no love you”, sometimes it’s “you no my parents – my parents in Ethiopia”, and sometimes it’s “no like America- go back to Ethiopia”. Do they mean these things? No. Later there are apologies and remorse, and admittance that it was said out of anger. I have learned so much about our relationship with our (adoptive) heavenly Father these last three months from this, and from other situations we have encountered. We as children of God have everything at our fingertips – the keys to the kingdom! He adopted us, took us in, gave us a new name, redeemed our pasts – made us HIS. How many times in our relationship with our heavenly Father have we, maybe not with words but with actions, basically said to God “no love you – you no my Father…me go back to________”. How many times have we chosen to be angry instead of living in His love, or basically chosen our old life/way of living in exchange for all of the amazing things we have at our disposal as a child of the King? Granted, our boys do miss Ethiopia (and so do we!)- they miss their friends, their culture, and life the way it was before their father died and their mother had to give them up. But, do they miss going to bed without a mom and dad every night for two years, or someone consistent to hold them when they are sad? No. Do they miss their orphanage living conditions? No. Do they miss not having their own clothes, or anything to call their own for that matter? No. Do they miss not having a school to attend or a church they can go to every Sunday and make friends? No. Do they miss having no hope for the future? No. So we, in the same way, have what we need in Jesus Christ, but sometimes turn our backs and choose our old rags and way of living. It’s enticing sometimes to go back to the way of the world – Satan has a great way of making things looks easier or more fun, when in all actuality, we know that our old way of living brought no true joy, just pain. Why do we do this?

So, back to the book Relentless Hope. I’m reading it a second time. It’s full of stories of struggle with sin and of redemption. Full of stories of good people going through or struggling with bad things, how you can persevere with relentless hope, and how there’s always something precious to be gained. I guess the main thing I took away from the book was how to extract the precious. So, I try to do it every day now. Each day there is spiritual warfare in our home. Satan HATES adoption. If he can keep orphans as orphans, he knows he has a great shot at their souls. He fills orphan’s heads with lies. When God’s people adopt, Satan loses. He will then attack your home, trying to keep a foothold. Newsflash to Satan: You are NOT welcome in our home. We are fighting, and with God’s help, we WILL win. So, at the end of each day now with my journal, I sit down and write “Extracting the precious from today” and the date. I then list out every victory that we had that day, whether great or very small. Some days, there is very little victory, but I can find something to celebrate! Some days are really really good and there is lots to write down. This past Wednesday was a rough day for both boys at home. Anger abounded, attitudes were bad, nothing made them happy, and nothing we did or tried helped. BUT, they did go to AWANA that night, and both had an amazing time. Christian finished his entrance book and got his first AWANA book…and his little red vest…which he is very proud of. On a different day this week with little precious to take away, I recorded this about Joash: Joash LOVES the ice cream truck that comes through our neighborhood. He hears the music and will drop everything, grab a dollar from his Christmas money, and run outside. He puts his little hand out like he is hailing a cab in NYC, and he pays for his ice cream of choice. The funny thing is he never eats it! He will give it to a neighbor friend or to me, or put it in the freezer “for later”. The little guy just loves the whole ice cream truck experience. It gets me in the heart every time! So precious. So I write it down. I choose not to record the bad things that happen during the day. We have the ability to forgive, but not to completely forget, so I know one day I will still be able to recall some of these things when they are grown and way past all this and we are sitting around at the holidays talking and giving them a hard time about it! But for now, it does no good to rehash. All it will do is upset and discourage me all over again. Writing the precious things (that God has given us during a seemingly worthless day) down brings joy to my heart and helps me focus on victory. I want to break out my journals one day, and let them read through all of the daily victories and milestones…I want us as a family to remember the precious. My babies need prayer - they are hurting little individuals that have a long way to go emotionally. They are angry -they direct their anger towards us some days.It's hard, and it hurts. But their futures are as bright as the promises of God, and we will continue to fight! We are a family and we love them so much.

"And that's the key to our contentment. As Christians, we should be marked by our radically different approach to life. We have access to a God who offers us peace, but some days the most conflicted people I talk to are believers. I want to live by the verses I sing in the choruses on Sunday, songs about how I am content, and all I need is Jesus (not Jesus plus the right diagnosis, or Jesus plus having my way). If I get to be His spokesman, it'll be by reflecting to the world, as the prophet Jeremiah did, a truth not easily understood. And in this case, the truth is, even the most worthless of moments, whether big or small, can have something precious extracted from them. He doesn't waste anything." -Beth Guckenberger
Jeremiah 15:15-21